Jude Fawley: Character Analysis in - Jude The Obscure

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      Sensitive child compassionately inclined towards animals and birds. The story opens when Jude Fawley is a small boy of eleven and concludes when he has not yet reached thirty. The whole novel is the portrayal of the vicissitudes of life, the trials and tribulations of Jude, and the persons who come into contact with him. Introduced to us as an orphan under the care of his great aunt who never married and reared a family of her own, Jude is portrayed as a sensitive lad who is easily overcome by feelings of distress for various causes. The departure of his schoolmaster makes him sad. His sympathy for birds and animals had received the approbation and encouragement of this schoolmaster. He gets a job of scaring away the birds that visit the cornfields of his employer to eat the corn. Being a sentimental child, compassionate towards birds, Jude allows the innocent feathered beings to dine on the products of the field which results in his dismissal. This sympathetic attitude towards our dumb fellow-beings of the world is developed in Jude and we find later on how a caged rabbit provokes his sympathy.

      Feeling of being unwanted. Naturally moody, brooding, and reflective, Jude has a feeling that he is an unwanted being in the world like the birds which he used to scare away. As he happens to be a child feeling the pricks of life long before an ordinary man would expect to, his face wears the fixity of a thoughtful child. As Hardy has put it, Jude was an ancient man in some phases of thought but other much younger than his years. Jude is the sort of person who was born to ache a good deal. The subsequent history of Jude justifies this prediction.

      Frustrated in his intellectual aspirations. Jude has had a strong desire to acquire knowledge ever since his childhood and this feeling is encouraged by this schoolmaster who himself wanted to learn more. He considers the University town of Christminster to be the heavenly Jerusalem. Even when he gest a distant glimpse of the city he calls it a city of light where trees of knowledge grow in plenty. Born in a poor family Jude has to work even for his maintenance. The ardor for knowledge makes him study on his own. The quack doctor Vilbert promises to give him Greek and Latin grammar books on the condition that Jude popularises his medicinal tablets. Jude does so but the Doctor backs out of his promise. This is one of Jude's early disillusionment in life. Phillotson sends him some books and Jude goes ahead with his self-study. Even while driving the bread-cart Jude goes on reading but despite his studious bent of mind, he feels that he cannot follow the intricacies of grammar unless someone else guides him. He then reads Christian scriptures with the dream of obtaining the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He writes to several academicians of guidance in this respect. None except one replies to him and that solitary correspondent dissuades him from plunging into the channels of academic study. This frustration of his intellectual aspirations constitutes a portion of the tragedy that Jude encounters in his life.

      The modest desire of becoming a curate in the church eludes him. Even though he is intelligent and hard-working Jude could not fulfill his academic ambition. The main reason for his failure is his poverty and the want of sympathy in the persons at the helm of affairs. Hardy therefore vehemently criticizes the administrative and educational systems then current in England because they never encouraged young men of financially backward families to develop their innate abilities.

      Sensuous weakness. Apart from poverty and absence of encouragement from authorities Jude had to suffer frustration and non-fulfillment of his aims and ambitions due to his intrinsic weakness of flesh and addiction to liquor. This strong streak of sensuality undermines his ardor for study. When Arabella overwhelms him with her physical charms and voluptuousness Jude cannot resist her. He is compelled to marry her because Arabella makes him believe that she has conceived as a result of sexual intercourse with him. The marriage between a man of sensitive, refined nature and a woman with a vulgar and coarse worldliness is bound to fail. That was the case with Arabella and Jude. But the mischief has already been committed because Jude had completely forgotten his studies. As could be expected, his weakness for a woman proved a hindrance to his academic progress. After one of his quarrels with Arabella, he even attempts to commit suicide.

      The advent of Sue in Jude's life. Getting rid of Arabella does not help Jude much because he gets entangled with his cousin Sue. Jude's love for Sue surpasses his earlier love for academic knowledge. What starts as an intellectual sympathy and a craving for loving-kindness in his solitude ends with actual physical contact with her out of wedlock and begetting a couple of children. Despite many reasons against his entanglement with his cousin Sue, he doggedly pursues it because he cannot subdue the flame of passion Sue has kindled in his heart.

      Frustration in the sexual life outside wedlock. Jude has pursued Sue both before and after her marriage with Phillotson. He felt that in a life of constant internal warfare between flesh and spirit, the spirit cannot always expect success. Hence he burns his ethical books and puts a stop to all his intellectual aspirations. The murder of their children by Father Time upsets the mental equilibrium of Sue. She leaves him and goes back to Phillotson. She feels that Fate has meted out a punishment that she deserved. This depresses Jude and under the influence of liquor, he remarries Arabella. Over and above the disappointments in his hopes and aspirations, Jude becomes thoroughly sick and disabled. Arabella too deserts him and he dies a premature death even before he sees thirty summers in his life.

      A compassionate man with an adverse fate. Jude was congenitally simple, compassionate. Arabella refers to this trait of Jude's character and calls him a tender fool. He has a high sense of honour because he marries Arabella on being told that she has become pregnant through him. Jude suffers deeply throughout his life despite all his good qualities because the weakness that he had was so very powerful. There had been many days of thrilling joy in Jude's life with Sue but they were too short-lived to obviate the intensity of the misery he suffered.

      No unfairness or crookedness. Jude's weakness for the warmth of feminine contact is not at all abnormal. All healthy individuals possess it, but what makes him suffer is his being thoroughly absorbed by it. He should have enjoyed it without detriment to his intellectual development. One thing we must note is that throughout the story nothing happens to make us doubt his integrity as a man. He is not cunning or crooked. He does not cheat anyone. He does not resort to unfair means to attain his desires. He is never dishonest or untruthful. He admits that his weakness for womankind and strong liquor as his enemies whom he could have turned into comrades if only he had been a little more sensible. As he says later on: "The time was not ripe for us. Our ideas were fifty years too soon to be any good to us." The resistance their ideas met within society brought recklessness and ruin on Jude.

      The diverging development of outlook in Sue and Jude. Sue was originally heterodox. She becomes increasingly conventional later as a result of the triple tragedy in the deaths of the children. On the other hand, Jude was conventional and devout at the outset. Partly under the influence of Sue Jude gets rid of his orthodox views and conventional beliefs. Sue gives up her revolutionary views and adopts conventional beliefs and notions. Affliction in domestic life brought Sue to an unreasonable state. It was Sue who rooted out what little affection and reverence Jude had left in him for the Church.

      Conclusion. Jude is a character who evokes our sympathies. His life became tragic due to (a) humble origin and financial backwardness, (b) weakness for women and addiction to liquor, (c) his entanglement with Sue despite religious taboos and prohibitions, and (d) tyranny of social conventions.

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